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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Only Possible Conclusion: This Changes Everything!
Text:LD 17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-07-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-34

Lesson: LD 17

 

  1. Psalm 101: 1-3

  2. Psalm 124: 1-3

  3. Hymn 33: 1-4

  4. (Post-Apostles’ Creed) Hymn 10: 1, 2

  5. Hymn 36: 1-4

 

THE ONLY POSSIBLE CONCLUSION: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!

  1. This Changes Our Status

  2. This Changes Our Life

  3. This Changes Our Future

 

Words to Listen For: seminary, students, scale, stop, sing

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Why do we need both the cross and the tomb to save us?

  2. What did the Son call out on Good Friday? What did the Father call out on Easter Sunday?

  3. How is our status like a number line?

  4. What are the 2 answers for the question: "when is your resurrection?"

  5. What is the internal and external element of our salvation? What is the part that we are still waiting for?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation, raised by Christ,

What is more important to our faith: the cross, or the tomb?

     The cross is where Jesus died in bitter agony.

     The tomb is where He emerged in glorious victory.

Between these two...it’s the cross, right?  The symbol of Christianity, known throughout the world is the cross!

When Paul went to preach to the Corinthians, he said, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

But then we come to our reading for today in 1 Corinthians 15...and we read the following:

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain....if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 

So, are we saved through a CRUCIFIED Saviour, or are we saved through a RISEN Saviour?

This is the question.

But...do we actually have to choose?  Do we have to choose between our Lord on the cross, dying in bitter agony, and our risen Lord, rising in glorious victory?

NO!  We don’t have to choose, because our suffering Lord and our risen Lord are both our Lord JESUS CHRIST!  We are saved by HIS WORK.  All of it!!

If we only had the empty cross without the empty tomb...our Saviour would not have been God, and His death wouldn’t have counted for anything.

If we only had the empty tomb without a cross coming before...how would our Lord’s resurrection be any different than that of Lazarus?  Lazarus too left behind an empty tomb, but He didn’t save us from our sins.  Our Saviour’s name is not Lazarus of Bethany.

And so we need both.  We need both a Good Friday and an Easter Sunday!

And Easter Sunday is

THE ONLY POSSIBLE CONCLUSION [To Good Friday]: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!

  1. This Changes Our Status

  2. This Changes Our Life

  3. This Changes Our Future

 

The Only Possible Conclusion: This Changes Everything!

Now, I will admit, that I chuckled a bit while crafting this theme.  That 3 word phrase, “this changes everything!” was a bit of a running joke in the seminary during my time there, because one of my fellow classmates, now a fellow minister, would regularly, two or three times a week, exclaim loudly in class: “This changes everything!”  He would do this unironically, legitimately excited about the teaching of a professor, the wording of a textbook, or a new theological idea.

And we teased him mercilessly for that phrase.  Because, in reality, there are very few things that literally CHANGE EVERYTHING.

Very few things, very few days when everything changes.

But Easter Sunday, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ does indeed CHANGE EVERYTHING!

In our reading from 1 Corinthians, we saw Paul say much the same thing!

     If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain.

     If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.

     If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

For the Apostle Paul, the resurrection CHANGED EVERYTHING!

But why?  Why is the resurrection so important?  The resurrection is a hard teaching to believe!

We can read in Mark 16 that - they (that is, the disciples) went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

When first confronted with an empty tomb, the disciples did not know what to make of it.  They ran away!

The resurrection is a hard teaching to believe...but it is vital that we do so.  And our catechism explains why.

    How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?

    First, by His resurrection, He has overcome death.

Let’s pause there for a moment.

By His resurrection, He has overcome death.

We heard about this in Lord’s Day 16.  Jesus Christ transformed death.  He overcame our final enemy, and one day He will destroy it.  He is the victor over death.

    By His resurrection, He has overcome death

    So that He could make us share in the righteousness which He had obtained for us by His death.

 

Here, we see that there are two parts.

  1. Through His DEATH, He obtained righteousness for us

  2. Through His RESURRECTION, He makes us share in that righteousness

It was His resurrection that made us share in that righteousness.  It was His resurrection that sealed it.

But how?  Why?

________________

The resurrection was the proof and proclamation that God is fully and completely satisfied with the work that His Son did upon the cross.  It isn’t so much that something MORE happened with our righteousness on Easter Sunday that wasn’t accomplished already on Good Friday.

When our Lord proclaimed from the cross: “IT IS FINISHED,” He really and truly meant it.

But then He died.

And His body was taken away, wrapped in burial clothes, and put in a tomb.

And the Jews, the Romans, even some of the disciples thought, “Yeah...it is finished.  This is the end of Jesus.”  The Jews and the Romans celebrated, thinking that the trouble was over.  And the disciples mourned, as they thought His plan to redeem God’s people was over.

But God raised Him from the dead!  The filled grave didn’t have the final word, but the empty grave did.

If the cross was Jesus putting a period at the end of a sentence - IT IS FINISHED...PERIOD! - then Easter was God putting His seal on it.

Do you see?

On Good Friday, the Son called out: IT IS FINISHED!

     On Easter Sunday, the Father called out: AMEN!  SO SHALL IT BE!

And so it was His death on Friday that obtained our righteousness, and it was His life on Easter that makes us share in it.

But what does that do for us?

We have seen HOW we share in the righteousness of Christ...but WHAT DOES IT MEAN to share in His righteousness?

Our Lord, through His perfect life and atoning death, obtained perfect obedience for us.  His death cancelled out our debt, and His life gave to us a balance of righteousness and obedience.

The catechism students in my home church know this teaching well.  This was one of the two main diagrams that I taught them, again and again.

Imagine that your status before God is like a number line.  Zero is in the middle, and one side goes off into the negatives, and the other goes off into the positives.

And where do we start off?  When we are conceived and born?

How do we NATURALLY look to God?

We might be tempted to think that we start off at zero.  In the middle.  We start off as innocent babies, and God is just like new parents, marvelling over how perfect the child is.

But that’s not the scriptural reality.

We are conceived and born in sin.  There is none righteous.  No not one.  And that includes covenant children.

We start in the negatives.  Conceived and born in sin.  Deserving of death.

But God.

But then God intervenes.

And He takes all our negatives, all of our sins He took upon Himself on the cross.  Each and every sin, the sin we were born with.  The sins we commit.  And through the death of our dear Lord, our status moves up.  Our status climbs, all the way through the negatives, and it gets to zero.

But zero is not righteous.  Zero doesn’t get you into heaven.

And that is where Jesus’ life comes in.  His earthly life.

Because every moment of His life was intentional.  He didn’t die as a baby for our sins because that wouldn’t have saved us.

But instead, He spent His life perfectly obeying God’s law for us.  Each one of the 10 commandments.  The letter of the law, and the spirit of the law.  Perfectly.

And this, He credits to our account.  So our zero is moved up into the positives!  For only the those who do what is just and right can ascend into heaven.  Only the righteous.

This is what He obtained for us.

The status of going from one end of the scale to the other end.

Going from being filthy with sin

     To being clean in innocence

          To being shining in righteousness.

This was obtained through His earthly ministry, culminating in His death.

And we can share in it because of His resurrection.

So that day that changed everything...it changed our status before God.  How does God see us now?  As sinners in need of a Saviour?

Filthy with sin?  No!  As saints, shining and glorious, because of the work of our Saviour.  This is what He tells us we are, and this is what we are.

But a day that changed everything can’t just change one thing.  It didn’t just change our status, but it changed our lives on this earth too.  Our second point.

Let me start by asking you a series of questions.  You can say the answers in your head.

     When was the resurrection of Lazarus?

     When was the resurrection of Christ?

     When is your resurrection?

_________________

The resurrection of Lazarus was 4 days after his death, right?

The resurrection of Christ was on the third day.

And our resurrection…

Oh wait.  When does our resurrection happen?

Another way of asking the question is: When does our eternal life start?

So many people seem to have the idea that our eternal life starts after this earthly life is over.  We live our 70 or 80 years, we die, and then our eternal life begins.  If it starts before Christ returns, then it will start without our glorified bodies...but we will be with God in Heaven.

But is that really what Scripture teaches?  Is our eternal life just something in the future?

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)

Scripture speaks as though this life is already over.  What does our confession say on this matter?

By His power, we too are raised up to a new life.

We are raised up to a new life.  This only happens if we are dead in our old life, no?

And so, by the power of the risen Christ, acting through His Spirit, we are raised to a new life!  A spiritual life!  Our eternal life!

This eternal life starts long before you physically die.  It starts when you spiritually die to your old self.  When you begin to put your faith in the Son of God who lived, died, and was raised to life for you.

     Your eternal life does not start when you receive your glorified body.

     Your eternal life does not start when you appear with Christ in glory.

     Your eternal life has already started!  Here in this world.

And this could be where we end point number two.  This second benefit of the resurrection is short in the catechism.  This is the new reality.  You have died and you have been raised up to a new life.

We could stop there.  But you might be left scratching your head...okay...this is my new reality...but what does it mean?  What does it mean for me that I’m dead to sin and alive to Christ?

Especially on days when I feel so ALIVE to sin, and so DEAD to Christ!  What do I do?

On days like that...you need to remember your status, first of all.  What is your status before God? How does He look at you?

He looks at you as someone who has been redeemed!  Someone who has been set free!  Someone who is now RIGHTEOUS and HOLY because of the work of Christ!

And secondly, you have you remember your condition.  What is your condition?

Your condition is DEAD!  And your condition is ALIVE!

The things of this passing existence...the sins, the evils that are still in you against your will...they’re DEAD.  Your old nature is dead!  YOU are dead!  So act like it!

And the things of the world to come...love, joy, holiness...the things that are being worked in you by the Holy Spirit...they’re ALIVE!  Your new nature is alive!  YOU are alive!  So act like it!

____________________

Do you see how powerful the resurrection of Christ is?  How much the empty tomb did?  Not only was Christ raised from the dead, but your old nature was raised from the dead!  Your heart of stone became a heart of flesh!  Your natural hatred for God and your neighbour has become the start of a natural love for them.

Are we totally depraved sinners still, beloved?

We are depraved in the sense that without God, we would be vile and wicked.  Naturally, there is nothing in us to curb our sin.

But in our soul?  Our soul was once totally depraved.  The blackest of the black.  But God started working in us.  He started empowering us to clean up.  To resist sin and live in righteousness.  And so our soul isn’t quite so sinful anymore.  Our soul has started to come alive.

And are we still just totally depraved sinners in the eyes of God?

No! He sees us as saints!  As holy ones!  We are struggling saints, we are sinning saints, but saints nonetheless.  We are saints because of Jesus work, obtained in His death, shared with us by His resurrection.

That Resurrection Sunday has changed so much!  But it has changed at least one more thing.  It has changed our future.  Our third point.

When will your resurrection happen?

I asked a similar question at the beginning of point 2.  And, if you were paying close attention, you might answer this one in the same way - we were already raised!  Our old nature, dead in sin, was already resurrected!

And this is true.

And yet.

We have only been raised partially.  Christ’s work, His sacrifice, once-for-all, never needs to be done again.  Our partial resurrection is not due to something lacking in Him, as though He tried to raise us completely, and failed.

For our God NEVER fails.

But He does everything perfectly, in His perfect timing.  And so our resurrection isn’t complete yet.  There is more coming.

Our partial resurrection - what does that look like?

It has an internal factor and an external factor.  We are beginning to be sanctified inside of ourselves.  The Holy Spirit is making us alive with Christ.  And there is the start of purity, righteousness, and holiness there.

And the righteousness accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross is given to us as our own by His resurrection.  And it covers us on the outside.

But between the outside and the inside...in the middle of the two, it’s still a battleground.  Our old nature is dead, but we also have to fight it.  It’s dead, but we must fight to count it as dead.  We have to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

We aren’t fully raised yet.  Fully resurrected.

But there will be a day…

There will be a glorious day when all is complete.  When there is no gap between our justification and our sanctification.  When all is Christ.  When all is holy.  When we are fully sanctified, and our insides match our outsides so that we are fully GLORIFIED!

That day is coming when we will be raised, body and soul, and join Christ in the air!  We heard about that in our reading

For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming, those who belong to Christ.

Christ the firstfruits.  Christ is the firstfruits, or the SURE PLEDGE of our glorious resurrection.

Those who belonged to Adam (that is, all of us) - we all died.

Those who belong to Christ (that is, believers) - we shall all be made alive!!

And 1 Thessalonians 4 describes this in powerful and comforting detail

Verse 16 → For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 

Our glorious resurrection isn’t so much about having incorruptible bodies.  Though we will have those.  Bodies that can sing and dance and run without growing tired.  And that is such an amazing blessing.  I truly look forward to that.

But our very physical resurrection, bursting through the grave, just like Christ did on Easter Sunday...our physical bodies being glorified and spoiling the grave...that isn’t the main point either.

Our bodies will be made like His glorious body so that we can always be with the Lord!  Always with the Lord!  Not a second apart from Him.  Not a second of guilt anymore.  No distractions to make your prayer life hard.  No sinful thoughts creeping in while you’re doing your devotions.

But you will be perfectly with the Lord forever.  The sun will shine so brightly and gloriously.  Not a cloud in the sky.

THIS is what the empty tomb does for us, beloved.

The cross is great and glorious.  The cross shows us justice and mercy.

But the empty tomb is equally great and glorious.  The empty tomb gives us status, life, and a future!

You cannot separate the two!  Our logo is a cross, but it’s an EMPTY cross!  The empty cross of Christ means the empty tomb of Christ!

The empty cross and the empty tomb are there to show my Saviour lives!  He lives and He reigns, and He does everything out of love FOR ME!

Resurrection Sunday was truly a day...that changed EVERYTHING.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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